Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First Day of School!

This entry is a few days late, so I'm playing catch up... I should be up to date after today.

DAY ONE- Gone are the days when I would walk outside, take pictures on the front step of my parent's house, get on a bus, and anxiously await my mom's first day of school cake. When I woke up on an air mattress this morning, it took a few minutes to realize that I was in Chicago, rooming with 5 other guys in an apartment right next to Wrigley Field, it was 13 degrees outside, and that I would be beginning the most intense classes that a brewer can imagine, beginning today. The 6 of us talked about what we were expecting from the program, and to be honest, none of us really knew what it was that we were expecting. We were all somewhat nervous and anxious, but most of all we were excited to get to class and find out what the class would be like. After a 15 minute train ride and a 20 minute walk across icy sidewalks, we arrived at the campus.

The course began with an introduction of our professors, followed by an introduction of all the students. There are about 40 of us for now, though a few will be done after doing the 6 week Associates of Brewing Technology program. We have brewers from breweries of all sizes and even a few homebrewers that are looking to get a foot in the door to the craft brewing industry. 

After introductions, we jumped right in to course material. For the first day, we covered the history of barley, where barley is grown, disease concerns for barley, and barley structure and morphology. For the first three hours leading up to lunch, we seemed to breeze right through the lecture. We discussed the region where barley was first cultivated (The region known as the Fertile Crescent in the Near East), where U.S. barley is grown (North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho primarily) and the world production of barley.

During our lunch hour we got comfortable in the student's only Bierstube. We have a room where students can gather for lunch, hanging out, and, naturally, beer tastings (samples are kept to a minimum at lunch as we still have 3 hours of lecture after lunch each day). Everyone was in good spirits thinking that the first hours of lecture were easy to understand, and we had learned some interesting information.

After lunch, we got right back to the lecture. The difficulty level shot up immediately after lunch. As we began to talk about the structure of barley, morphology, and barley breeding. We discussed in greater detail the challenges of growing barley, how various diseases effect barley, crop rotation, and barley evaluation. It was immediately apparent that weeknights would be dedicated to intense studying at the apartment. At the end of a brain frying lecture, the class gathered for a quick beer before heading home. I was glad to find out that I was not the only one feeling a little lost at the end of the first day. By 11:00 that night, after studying for 4 hours with my roommates, we were all feeling pretty good about the material we had covered. We realized that if we want to really absorb the insane amount of information we are having thrown at us, we would need to get ahead in reading and note taking, and be prepared with questions before new lectures. It's looking like a long 12 weeks of studying ahead!

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